Descartes-Meditation III In Meditation III, Descartes presents his argument for the existence of God. He makes this argument here because it is one of his stronger arguments. In this essay, I will summarize and critically assess this argument. Descartes begins this meditation with a review of what he is certain of so far.
He is skeptical of the existence of bodily things, but s certain that he exists and that he is a thinking thing. He decides that he could not be as certain of his existence unless all clear and distinct perceptions are certain. Therefore, whatever he perceives clearly and distinctly must be true. Descartes thought he was certain about most things. But skepticism continued to plague him. He seemed to want to escape the problems involved in clear perceptions by relying on God's existence to make them true.
In Descartes attempt to prove the existence of God, he makes up a theory of ideas. According to him, ideas area small part of thought. All thought is made up of many ideas put together. He suggests that although ideas are images of things, they are not just simple visual representations. We can have ideas of God, of justice, or of how to drive a car.
These are ideas, but they are not necessarily images of anything. Descartes continues to suggest that some ideas are just ideas. He begins to discuss innate, invented, and adventitious ideas. He focuses his ideas on adventitious ideas. He decides that we often assume we perceive things outside our mind without any degree of certainty. Descartes continues to reason that all ideas are really just thought.
All ideas have the same amount of formal reality, so they are all equal. On the other hand, what these ideas actually represent differs. SO the reality of things they represent, their objective reality, differs as well. Therefore, the idea of the existence of God has more objective reality than the idea of a tree.
A tree, in turn, has more objective reality than the idea of a color. Descartes comes to the conclusion that all of these ideas are just idea, and all have the same level of formal reality. Of all of Descartes arguments, I believe his arguments of formal and objective reality to be his weakest. My reason being that a tree, for example, exists. There are actual, physical components that make up a tree.
Not just ideas. Descartes then continues to say that no effect can have a greater amount of reality than its cause. He means that everything that exists must be made to exist by something that has an equal or greater amount of reality. An example of this is that a small rock can be made by chipping it from a bigger rock. The large rock has more reality than a small rock. So the smaller can come from the bigger.
But the rock cannot come from an idea such as color. The rock has more reality than color. Descartes states that an idea can only be caused by something that has as much formal reality as and idea has objective reality. In other words, the cause of and idea must be something with at least as much formal reality as the idea has objective reality. According to Descartes, something with a certain level of objective reality must be caused by something with that level of formal reality.
For example, the idea of a car might have been caused by the idea of a wagon. The idea of a wagon might have been caused by the idea of a wheel. If the ideas are traced back, Descartes suggests that you will find a cause with as much formal reality as the idea has objective reality. In conclusion, Descartes thinks that if he can have an idea that has more objective reality than he has formal reality, he can conclude that something must exist outside of him that made him think this idea. He therefore continues to attempt to prove that the thing that exists outside him that makes him think these thoughts is God.